Two new bird species recorded in Bhutan

Two new bird species were recorded this month taking the total number of avian species found in the country to 721.

A small passerine bird called the desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) was sighted in Khawajara, Samdingkha, in Punkaha district by bird enthusiast and senior forester Leki Wangdi on April 25.

He said the new bird was sighted when taking random pictures of the birds in the area along with a friend, a schoolteacher in Punakha.

The bird was confirmed as a new record by Sherab, an Ornithologist with Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in Bumthang.

The desert wheatear is a migratory insectivorous Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae) species with largely sandy-brown plumage which matches well with its arid habitat.

Desert wheatear is known to inhabit rocky or sandy dry steppes, desert and semi-desert plains with sparse vegetation as well as salt flats, dry riverbeds and wadis, and arid cultivated land.

The bird spends most of its time on the ground, perching on stones or low bushes and hopping to the ground to catch prey, which includes a range of insects and other invertebrates. It is not a threatened species.

A schoolteacher with Bajo Higher Secondary School in Wangdue sighted the second new species, the Oriental Pranticole, in the Punatshangchu area on 25 April

Teacher Tshering Tobgay sighted the bird early in the morning before school time and took a picture. It was confirmed as a species not recorded earlier in Bhutan.

The oriental pratincole (Glareola maldivarum), also known as the grasshopper-bird or swallow-plover is a wader in the pratincole family, Glareolidae.

At 24 cm, the bird has long pointed wings and short forked tails. The head and the upper part is brown and the under part, light brown at the upper breast and white on the belly. Its bill is stout with reddish base on the lower mandible.

These pratincoles are found in warmer parts of south and East Asia, breeding from North Pakistan and the Kashmir region across into China.

The sighting of desert wheatear and the oriental pranticole are the third and fourth new records this year after Godlewski’s bunting and Yellow-eyed babbler were sighted at the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in February this year.

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